National Parks in the United Kingdom

Behind the massive appeal of double decker buses and the Queen’s guards, travel guide Visit London says the capital offers an abundance of open spaces, vast areas where you can breathe in the pleasures of nature without breaking the bank.

For tourists coming in from the busy London airports, it’s essential to know that once you arrive, there are a lot of options to – and from – the middle part of the city. Parking4Less, a renowned UK-based parking aggregator, claims that the fastest way to central London from Heathrow is by taking the Express. On the other hand, passengers with vehicles at Gatwick Airport can take advantage of the different parking options; depending on which terminal they arrive at.

Once you’ve arrived, the city’s excellent transportation scheme comes into play, as well as the ease of finding a rent-a-car service. For these reasons, exploring the bevy of national parks becomes as simple as a classic broil recipe. So whether you prefer a steady picnic with the family or a lively afternoon full of activities, these splendid grounds become your go-to places for fun in the UK:

Dartmoor National Park

UK national parks Dartmoor
Image Credit:

The 953-square kilometre southwestern land boasts a rich history dating back from the early 1950s; tracing its roots from the 1,208 scheduled ancient mountains. Part of Dartmoor’s charm is the number of day tripping activities that include canoeing, cycling, and horse riding.

Exmoor National Park

Before its establishment in 1954, Exmoor was exclusively a scenic landscape in the southwest part of England with small towns and villages. Today, this charming field is highlighted by the fantastic view of moorlands, woodlands, and valleys.

Lake District National Park

Lake District envelops the rich part of England’s northern region – covering an area famous for its lovely landscapes and lakes. With prosperous wildlife, national heritage, and amazing sceneries, the park offers a charming spot for families and vacationers. In addition, Lake District offers plenty of hiking and walking trails.

New Forest National Park

Taking in the compact yet untamed greenery of your surroundings should be the top-most priority during your visit at New Forest. This southwest England area is one of the newer national parks in the UK and is known for having majestic old trees and adorable ponies.

North York Moors National Park

Spread across 1,434 square kilometres of land in northern London, North York Moors offers a lot of activities and attractions for the whole family. It’s also worth noting that the national park’s ideal location makes it an ideal place for tourists who just want to take part in activities such as fishing, bird watching, and even rock climbing.

Northumberland National Park

Since 1956, Northumberland is giving visitors a momentary escape from the steady vibe of northeast England. Just a short hike to the south takes tourists to the world heritage site, Hadrian’s Wall. The park is also located between the cities of Carlisle and Newcastle and is near the border of Scotland.

Peak District National Park

Peak District firmly sets its roots in the heart of England, occupying the majority of Derbyshire County. It also showcases three high character areas specifically Dark Peak, South West Park, and White Peak. Each of these has unique features, ecosystem, and archaeology.

South Downs National Park

As the only green space in Southern England that offers hang gliding, paragliding, and ballooning, South Downs has almost everything for every day-tripper. This newly established national park also has close to 750 scheduled ancient mountains, as well as 165 conservation areas.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

Designated as a national park in 1954, Yorkshire Dales enjoys a long history that attracts many tourists each year. From captivating waterfalls to beautiful meadows, everything contributes to the charm of its green space. Additionally, visitors will be one with Mother Nature while relishing activities such as pony trekking, horse riding, and orienteering.

Broads National Park

With the subtlety of a gentle landscape and the richness of historic landmarks, Broads owns the distinction of being the largest protected wetland and the third largest inland waterway in the country. Here, tourists can see some of the rarest plants and animals in the UK.

Uccellina Park In Tuscany

My wife and I were staying in a Tuscan villa near Grosseto, and our property owners told us that in the whereabouts there was one of the most unique Italian national reservations, the Uccellina nature park in Maremma. Both my wife and I are hiking and nature lovers, so we could not let this one pass.

We went on a self guided hike that presented very little challenges. Our GPS signaled that along our path we were to climb on the highest elevation of the Maremma region in Tuscany, Poggio Lecci at 417 meters. Our guide book advised to hike that hill to enjoy the best views in the southern part of Tuscany!

Uccellina Park beach

We started our walk from Pratini at around 9:30 AM, since we had 5 walking hours ahead of us and did not want to get caught on our way up during the hottest time of the day. 300 meters into our hike we started climbing up the most difficult section of the trail, the one that takes up to the ridge. Although fatiguing, the higher we climbed the wider and more beautiful the view over the park.

With the increasing elevation the vegetation started to become more sparse, until we reached the summit of Poggio Lecci at 417 meters of altitude. The last stretch was less demanding on our legs, and once there, we stopped for a while to enjoy the wonderful 360-degree views and eat our sandwiches. From here we were able to see the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago: Montecristo, Giglio, Elba, and the peaks of Corsica, which gave us the amazing feeling of being part of something so grand.

After the lunch break, we reached the Abbey of St. Rabano. The original heart of the monastery dates back to the Eleventh century and was a Benedectine-monks settlement of great importance in the Middle Ages. It was sad to see that these ruins are not at all in good shape, even though the restoration process started in the Seventies. Nevertheless, you can discern all the various sections of the structure, and the place holds a magic fascination similar to castles in fairy tales.

Uccellina Park abbey

The return route runs along the western flank of the hill, until you reach the so-called Road of Olives. The route is flanked all along by lush vegetation. I could recognize holms, oaks, rosemary bushes and wild strawberry plants. We took a detour towards the beach, where we took off our rigid hiking shoes and deeply enjoyed a refreshing foot bath. We continued along the beach, rich of trees and branches carried by the sea, white-washed by salty waves, resembling sculptures shaped by the wind. We continued until Marina di Alberese, which we reached at about 4:30 PM.

This was just one of 6 possible routes, but I have to say it’s the one I enjoyed the most. We loved the Uccellina Park in the Tuscan Maremma so much that we return there whenever we are traveling to central Italy. It is such a wild and untouched land that it is capable of bringing you back to your adventurous childhood dreams.

Matt loves Tuscany so much that he works as a travel adviser about the region and the best vacation Tuscany villas to rent. You can find great villa deals on Twitter @ThriftyTuscany and Facebook page on Tuscany.

Iguazu National Park in Argentina

By Laura Elise

I was never impressed by waterfalls until I visited Iguazu, which I think says something considering I grew up a few hours from Niagara Falls. Iguazu Falls is a complex of 275 waterfalls pouring through the subtropical jungles of Argentina and Brazil. It stretches 1.7 miles across and at its highest plunges 270 feet to the river below. The area surrounding the waterfalls is protected by two national parks: Parque Nacional do Iguaçu in Brazil and Parque Nacional Iguazu in Argentina.

Although I was lucky enough to visit both this past February, I preferred Argentina’s National Park. Although it’s difficult to get “off the beaten path” in either park, there is little reason to want to, as the waterfalls are the main attraction. The area became a National Park in 1934 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

The park is connected by walkways and a mini-train, which takes you to the far end of the park. This is where the largest fall, Devil’s Throat, is located. This horseshoe waterfall plunges dramatically, sending plums of mist high into the air. The view point is reached by metal walkway suspended over the deceivingly tranquil Iguazu River.

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu National Park contains two main walking circuits, called the Upper and Lower Circuit. They correspondingly take you to the best view points to see the falls from the top and bottom of the waterfalls. In 2012, it cost 130 pesos to enter the park (about $30 USD, although you must pay with local currency). Although a boat ride to the foot of the falls costs extra, there are additional activities, such as visiting San Martin Island or hiking the Macuco Trail, which takes about three hours. To see the full panoramic view of the falls, you need to visit the Brazilian side of the falls, which charges an additional entrance fee.

Visitors are allowed to bring food and drink inside the park, a nice option since everything inside the park is a bit pricy. There are also a few drinking fountains where you can refill your water bottle — a rarity in Latin America. And although you’re required to stick to the main paths, you’re still likely to see wildlife. When I was there I saw iguanas, butterflies, coatis (raccoon-type mammals), and many types of birds. The subtropical vegetation contains over 2,000 species of vascular plants, and is extremely lush close to the falls thanks to the constant spray.

This area was originally occupied by the Caingangues Indians and then the Guaranies. The latter gave Iguazu its name, which means “Big Water.” Spaniards arrived to the region in the 1540s.

Laura lives in Peru and writes for SA Luxury Expeditions, a travel company that specializes in South America tours. Due to Iguazu’s remote location, she recommends combining Iguazu tours with a visit to Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires. Follow her on twitter @SA_Expeditions. Photo belongs to author.

Daintree National Park Rainforest: Six Animals You May Encounter

If you are looking to see some unusual animals on your next adventure to Australia, you should seriously consider adding time for a trip to Heritage Daintree National Park to your itinerary. Comprising the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest in Australia, the World Heritage Daintree National Park Rainforest is an ancient wonderland of flora and fauna.

Australia is known for its unique wildlife and Daintree National Park doesn’t disappoint. Known for its rare and diverse wildlife, the Daintree Rainforest contains 30% of all frog, reptile and marsupial species, 65% of all bat and butterflies, and roughly 18% of all bird species found in Australia.

Some of its more interesting inhabitants include:

The Cassowary


Creating a striking figure against dense rainforest foliage, the Cassowary, Australia’s heaviest flightless bird, looks as if it just walked out of a nearby spaceship. Standing tall, with a pointed head, vivid blue neck and drooping red wattles, the Cassowary helps to disperse rainforest seeds while it feeds on small fruit, plants and a range of unfortunate invertebrates.

The Lace Monitor

lace monitor

These chunky, wild looking lizards are adept at running, swimming, burrowing and scaling trees, and are clad in camouflage-like skin. A type of navy seal reptile, the lace monitor is known to aggressively launch into bird nests for a hearty feast, while feeding on insects, reptiles and small animals during its more passive moments.

The Musky Rat-Kangaroo

musky rat kangaroo

Drawn towards the creeks and rivers of the rainforest, theses small, dark, hairy marsupials have five toes on their hind foot and move with a type of ‘bunny hop’. Generally a solitary creature, the friendless musky rat-kangaroo hops it way towards the fruits of rainforest trees and small marsupials. It also hangs it hat amongst a bed of dried leaves and ferns at night.

The Osprey


The majestic looking Osprey is a diurnal fish eater that dwells typically near the ocean, but also near any body of water with the potential for a good meal. Possessing unique, avian, fish hunting characteristics, the Osprey has a reversible outer toe, fit for grabbing slippery fish. It also has a short tail, long narrow wings, and five feather-like fingers to give it an atypical airborne appearance.

The Red Eyed Tree Frog

red eyed green tree frog

More seldom seen than its relative the Green Tree Frog, the Red Eyed Tree Frog, true to its name, has bright red eyes and a glowing green back, giving it an appearance of ‘otherworldliness’. This nocturnal creature roams the dark forests feasting on moths and other insects. Able to create exceptionally loud noises, these vampiric looking amphibians create a ‘waa-aa…waa-aa’ sound, followed by a soft trill.

Tawny Frogmouth Owl

tawny frogmouth owl

This nocturnal ‘weak footed’ creature is actually more related to the nightjar than the owl, and can be found in less dense parts of the rainforest. Its plumage is silver-grey, and is streaked and mottled with black and auburn. Creating a deep, soft and continuous ‘oom oom’ sound, this rather clumsy clawed inhabitant is known to fly into car headlights when in pursuit of a good insect.

This post is courtesy of Thala Beach Lodge which is a Port Douglas Eco Resort offering accommodation in close proximity to Daintree National Park.

My Hike in Con Dao National Park in Vietnam

By Julie Bowman

Last summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Con Dao National Park in Vietnam. The picturesque scenery was like something out of a fairy tale. I have travelled to many places in the world, and nothing has made an impression on my memory quite like this magical island with its many rich colours and lush expanse that a large faceless city just cannot do.

The first thing that caught my attention was how verdant and green everything appeared. I’m from an urban community, so perhaps I’m just not used to it, but the lush foliage all around during the hiking we did on the first day was almost overwhelming. I could also tell a difference in the air quality compared to where I come from. The aura was natural and inspiring, an essence of pure utopia. First impressions really do make an impact as I have not forgotten my initial perceptions of Con Dao.

I chose to access the islands by plane. While you can opt to travel by boat, I spoke to a couple staying at my hotel that chose this option, and they said that they lost two days waiting on the boat due to high wind conditions. While this could have been a unique circumstance, it is something that could have been avoided by flying.

Con Dao is composed of 16 islands, and travelers to this remote destination can expect to have a jam-packed itinerary, because there is never a dull moment. I had always dreamed of scuba diving as a child. Pictures flooded my mind of what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for the majestic beauty of the sea that I beheld when I went diving in Con Dao. The aqua waters were beautiful, smooth and tranquil during the entire length of the dive. I could hardly take my eyes off of the coral reefs. While I had seen pictures in the brochures I had studied prior to arrival, the printed images could not capture the vast beauty of the real thing. Con Dao was the perfect location to fulfil my lifelong scuba diving dream.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of my visit to Con Dao was seemingly the most mundane — driving around the main island. My friends and I travelled on motor bikes during our visit, which was another first for me. The scenery that opened up in front of our eyes at every bend never ceased to amaze us.

My week-long trip to Con Dao was an experience I know I will never forget. While there are many places I have visited that I would never return to, I sincerely hope the opportunity to return to Con Dao one day presents itself.

Con Son bay

The photo shows the magnificent Con Son bay on the Con Dao Islands, which only hints at the amazing national park that lies just beyond those waters. I took several boat rides around the islands after I’d completed my main trek around the national parkland, and it was a completely different experience; so serene and peaceful compared to the hot sticky trek. The area as a whole is fairly unknown, especially outside of Vietnam, so it’s great to be able to visit and be literally the only Westerner here!

I did actually meet a couple from the USA on my trip and they said they were loving the whole ambience too, although to be fair, they hadn’t yet tried the trekking element of their trip yet! The photo doesn’t convey just how hot and humid the islands can be so it’s so important to dress appropriately and also carry lots of water with you. And the guidebooks also won’t tell you that there’s a fair amount of mosquitoes and midges around too, so make sure you’re armed with some insect repellent spray etc. But most of all just enjoy it as Vietnam is getting incredibly popular now so hurry before everyone cottons on to this great destination!

Julie has travelled to many countries across the world and has a particular passion for Asian culture, history and people and her most recent independent trip was to Vietnam where she relished immersing herself into the local culture and trying the local foods.

South Downs Way at South Downs National Park (England)

Britain’s newest National Park, the South Downs National Park, was granted National Park Status in April 2011 and it wasn’t a minute too soon. So beautiful are the 1627 square kilometres within the park that people who live in the area have been wondering for years why it had not already been accorded the title and protections. The South Downs National Park reaches East to Eastbourne all the way through to Winchester to the West, and takes in the stunning southern counties of East Sussex, West Sussex and Hampshire. Within that area the landscape encompasses the long undulating forests of the Weald over sandstone and clay vales and hills, the world-famous and iconic white cliffs at Beachy Head and the gorgeous chalk ridge of the South Downs and the rolling South Downs Way. Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and packed with hundreds of archaeological sites as well as the endless beautiful villages and market towns and the Cathedral City of Winchester, South Downs National Park is a true highlight of southern England and one of my favourite walks.

south downs national park

The best way to experience the national park is along the South Downs Way. This traverses the length of the National Park, from the coastal town of Eastbourne all the way to stunning Winchester. It will take you into the heart of the very best of England’s green and pleasant countryside and you can travel the trail either on foot, mountain bike or by horse. There are some steep inclines along the way but for people with an average level of fitness there is nothing that should trouble you too much. And the rewards are worth it – on a clear day you can stand and look out over Hampshire and Sussex and further, over the English Channel. Stand at the top of one of the many hills and enjoy the green patchwork of fields, woods, rivers and forests, as well as the beautiful villages dotted around the landscape. Indeed as you walk along the trail you will pass through farms and farmland, woods and forests, gentle streams and flowing rivers, castles and forts, quaint English villages and bustling market towns. Stop en route for a pint (or three) of local ale in one of the hundreds of traditional pubs, or combine your walk with one of the many festivals in Brighton, Winchester, Arundel or Glyndebourne.

No matter when you go, or how you decide to do it, the South Downs Way is one of England’s most enjoyable and picturesque trails. It is the oldest bridleway in the United Kingdom and it is packed with beauty and history at every turn. If you have a choice, the best way to go (and my favourite route) is from Winchester to Eastbourne, meaning you start at the Cathedral and finish the walk amidst the stunning views of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head.

Alex is a travel writer and blogger. He regularly writes about traveling and hiking around the UK and Europe. He also writes for a Kefalonia tourist information guide.

(Photo courtesy of Globalism Pictures)

Hiking in the Lake District National Park (England)

England’s Lake District National Park might be the most picturesque hiking destination in the UK. It’s got everything a hiker could hope to find in the great British outdoors- craggy mountain peaks, beautiful lakes stretching off into the distance, ancient stone circles, wild deer roaming the hillsides, ruined castles, and a scattering of excellent traditional pubs.

If you’re familiar with Wordsworth’s poem ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud…’ you’ve already heard about the Lake District. Wordsworth was inspired to write those lines after a walk near Ullswater (one of the bigger lakes) in 1802. Sir Walter Scott also wrote about this part of the world, and so did Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, and many of the great poets of the Romantic Movement.

It was also home to hiking pioneer Alfred Wainwright, a man who penned descriptions of no less than 214 hills and mountains — locally known as ‘fells’. That figure should give you some idea just how hilly the Lake District really is. There are easy day walks suitable for families, week-long expeditions for the more adventurous, and scrambles and full-blown rock climbs for those who like their terrain a little more vertical. Winter or summer, it’s a paradise for hikers.

windermere lake district national park

Scafell Pike is one of the most popular summits. At well over 3000ft it’s the highest in England. On a good day it offers views of peaks up to 100km distant and sometimes it’s even possible to catch a glimpse of the sharp peaks of North Wales or the Mourne Mountains in County Down far away across the Irish Sea.

Those who want to try scrambling should choose Helvellyn, a little further south. It’s not quite as high as Scafell Pike but still tops the 3000ft mark, and there are two classic ridge walks to the summit. Hikers can either go up Striding Edge and down Swirral Edge or vice-versa. The exposure is stunning and the views are spectacular, right beneath your feet. This is one for those with plenty of experience and a good head for heights. In winter conditions crampons and ice-axes are definitely recommended.

In the evenings it’s time to relax by the water’s edge. Sunset from Ambleside, just on the edge of Windermere, is often absolutely incredible:

ambleside at dusk lake district national park

If you happen to be driving along the edge of Ullswater on a still evening you’ll see the mountains reflected with almost unreal clarity:

ullswater in autumn lake district national park

Even if you come just to hike it’s worth taking a day off to hire a bike and wander by the waterside or hop on a boat tour.

Jess Spate is a UK-based hiker and a rock and ice climber. Understandably, the Lake District is one of her favourite places to be. When not out on the fells or clinging to the rocks she writes for Appalachian Outdoors (follow them on twitter @AppOutdoors), an American hiking and camping retailer.

Mother and Baby Whale Die in Fishermen Nets in Machala National Park Ecuador Video

This is simply tragic. A mother and baby whale are trapped in fish nets (if you look closely, at 1:39 in the video you can see the nets underneath the whales as a lighter white/green color) which ended up causing their deaths. Other whales in the area are seen trying to free them. The men operating the boat didn’t want to free the whales because it would have destroyed the fishing nets:

This is the description from the video:

This video shows a mother and a baby humpback whale trapped in fishermen nets in Puerto Lopez in Ecuador. You will notice a group of larger male humpback whales trying to break the mother and baby free. The video was filmed on a boat from the Machala National Park for tourists that wanted to see the whales. The guides who work for the Ecuadorian National Parks and Ministry of Environment did not want to set the whales free because it would destroy the costly fishermen nets. The mother and baby whale died three days later.